Watching Shane Lowry waddle into history at Royal Portrush, I was reminded of a similar day, nine years ago.
That day came back in 2010 when our own Louis Oosthuizen also made winning The Open Championship seem like a walk in the park at St Andrews.
The parallels are many. Both men had a four-shot lead heading into the final round and were never seriously challenged. Lowry won by six shots, Oosthuizen by seven. Neither man had won a Major before, nor were they among the favourites at the beginning of Open week.
As an aside, Oosthuizen’s nearest challenger was Lee Westwood, who finished at nine under par. In 2019, Westwood tied for fourth with Brooks Koepka at six under. The Englishman, who has never won a Major, is the only player to feature in the top 10 of the 2010 and 2019 Opens.
Westwood’s performance is a reminder of the transience of fame.
Who remembers, for instance, that Rory McIlroy tied for third at St Andrews, or that Retief Goosen was sixth, two shots behind Westwood? When the time comes for McIlroy to join the Champions Tour, we are more likely to remember his astonishing second round in 2019, that left him one stroke short of making the cut.
In the nine years since Oosthuizen won The Open, it feels like he has underachieved. Surely the most admired swing in golf is worth more than one Major? And yet, he belongs to that minuscule category of golfers – seven in total – who have recorded a runner-up finish at all four Majors.
Remember the albatross at Augusta? Or Bubba Watson’s ridiculous escape from the rough that won the playoff at the second extra hole in 2012? In any normal year Oosthuizen would have claimed the Green Jacket, but he need only turn to his mentor, Ernie Els, to be reminded his heartbreak is not unique.
It was 2004 and Els thought he had at least made the playoff, until Phil Mickelson holed a preposterous, curling, downhill putt on the last to clinch the first of his three Masters titles.
In 2015, Oosthuizen birdied six of the last seven holes to post the clubhouse lead at the US Open at Chambers Bay. Jordan Spieth birdied the last to pip him by one. And at the 2017 PGA Championship, Oosthuizen played the last four holes in three under, to lose by two to Justin Thomas.
So it is unkind to even suggest that Oosthuizen has not fulfilled his talent, but it is inevitable over the months and years ahead that Lowry will be under a similar spotlight. If he doesn’t contend at the Majors often enough, the muttering will begin. Only won because it was close to home, it rained at the right time, every dog has his day, etc, etc.
Maybe that’s why Lowry withdrew from his next two events and made a point of celebrating long and hard with friends and family. And maybe we ask too much of professional sportspeople. After all, if Lowry and Oosthuizen never win another tournament between them, their obituaries will begin by reminding us that at one single point in history, each man was the Champion Golfer of the Year.